At least 120 sitting BJP Members of Parliament including more than one-and-a-half-dozen Central ministers will not be given tickets to contest the 2019 general elections, multiple sources who have been involved in the party’s election-related meetings, have told The Sunday Guardian. These MPs include senior leaders who have crossed the age of 75 years. At present, BJP has 273 MPs, of whom around 45% will be dropped.
These party sources said that the BJP has been taking feedbacks from multiple sources to gauge the performance of its MPs. The exercise includes periodic feedbacks from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, from party workers and responses that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gets from different sources, including from the survey done by private agencies and the NaMo app.
In the recently held meeting of BJP leaders at Surajkund in Haryana, including organisational secretaries from across the country and senior RSS functionaries, the topic of denying tickets to sitting MPs was widely deliberated upon. Around 100 MPs are in a “weak” position in terms of performance and public opinion/popularity, as per the report which is being prepared by organisational secretaries.
Apart from these 100 plus MPs, the party is also looking for new faces to replace both Shatrughan Sinha who is MP from Patna Sahib and Kirti Azad, MP from Darbhanga, both in Bihar, for going “rogue”.
Those who are in a “vulnerable” position include 18 MPs from Uttar Pradesh, followed by Rajasthan, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Karnataka. The report has been prepared on the basis of the MPs’ performance. Possible effects of the Opposition alliance have not been taken into consideration.
Besides the “non-performing” MPs, the party may also deny tickets to as many as 19 MPs, who have crossed the age limit of 75 years set by PM Modi. They include party veterans such as L.K. Advani, who has crossed 90 years of age; Murli Manohar Joshi, 84; Karia Munda, 82; Shanta Kumar, 83; Bhuwan Khanduri, 83; Lila Dharbhai Vaghela, 83; Kalraj Mishra, 76; Ram Tahal Chaudhary, 76; Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav, 79, party leaders confirmed.
The “vulnerable” MPs have been given six months’ time to improve their prospects. At the same time, there will be a search for alternative candidates, sources said. Sources also said that a final survey will be done after the Assembly elections in the four states of MP, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram, and candidates will be finalised in January next year. The party is taking feedbacks on the basis of the MPs’ performance and popularity and also on who the most popular leader in a particular constituency is. The initial report will be prepared before the monsoon session of Parliament begins on 18 July. PM Modi will be briefed about the report during the session.
There will not be any haste in finalising the candidates except in the Northeast, Odisha, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. In some places, the party will ask the “selected”, (but not declared, candidates to start preparing for the elections silently.
“Multiple surveys that involve taking feedback from voters and from party workers have been carried out already across the country and some more will be carried out soon. The constant inputs that we are receiving from them are being used to point out the constituencies where our MPs are on the back foot. Many MPs from the Hindi belt of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, including some ministers, will not be given tickets as they have not performed the way they should have,” a senior party source said.
At least two MPs from Delhi have been told that they are unlikely to be repeated, sources said. Similarly, at least eight of the 26 sitting MPs in Madhya Pradesh are on a sticky wicket as per the multiple surveys conducted by the party and the RSS.
Of the existing ministers, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, senior leader Uma Bharti who holds the drinking water and sanitation portfolio, are unlikely to be repeated. Bharti, who is MP from Jhansi, has already indicated that she does not want to contest the elections, while Radha Mohan Singh, who is known for his simplicity and honesty, too has indicated that he would like to make way for someone else. Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, who has crossed 75 years of age, too is unlikely to contest.
Whether Minister of External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj, who has been keeping unwell due to which she has not been able to give enough time to her Lok Sabha constituency, Vidisha, will be given a Lok Sabha ticket or she will be asked to become a Rajya Sabha member, is a question that is being discussed among party workers, especially in Madhya Pradesh. The ground report from Vidisha is not too good, with voters expressing their displeasure several times across platforms over the continuous absence of Swaraj from her constituency. The government’s own NITI Aayog has presented a very sad picture about Vidisha.
In the 2014 general elections, BJP won on 282 seats out of the 427 it contested when it was helped by the “Modi wave”, which political observers across the spectrum agree, no longer exists. “2019 will be more of an election where the face on the ground will play more role in the mind of the voters than they did in 2014 when it was all about Modi. Hence, those who have a negative perception among voters, have become inaccessible (which the sources said was the most common complaint) and they will be dropped,” the leader said
If sources are to be believed, the party may also replace the in-charges of many states in order to gear up for the “final battle”. Those in-charges who may be given separate responsibilities include Om Mathur (UP), Vinay Sahasrabuddhe (MP), Avinash Rai Khanna (Rajasthan), while leaders like Bhupendra Yadav, Anil Jain, Ram Madhav and Anil Baluni may be given the responsibilities of organisation or being the election in-charges of states.